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What is CRVS and why does every country need it?

What is civil registration?

Civil registration is a process whereby major vital events occurring in a population are officially recorded. It is defined by the United Nations as ‘the continuous, permanent, compulsory and universal recording of the occurrence and characteristics of vital events in a population’, in accordance with the legal requirements of the country.

The goal of civil registration is to record all vital events that occur in a country as they occur.

Vital events covered in a CRVS system include:

  • Events that occur at the level of individuals – live birth, death and fetal death
  • Events that relate to family and civil status – marriage, registered partnership, separation, divorce, legal dissolution of registered partnership and annulment of marriage
  • Events that relate to descendants – adoption, legitimation and recognition.

Note that in these materials, we are focused on births and deaths (with causes of death) because these are critical CRVS inputs to health decision making in all countries. 

Although the goals and purposes of CRVS systems are universally agreed on, considerable variation exists between how CRVS systems are structured, and the ways in which they function among countries and – in some circumstances – within countries. These variations arise out of historical experiences and administrative and legal structures.

Whatever the precise organisational and structural context, the civil registration system should address all the processes and procedures involved in the recording, maintenance, storage and sharing of vital events information as required by law. Key civil registration functions include:

  • Registration: The occurrence and key characteristics of a vital event are recorded and stored within the civil register.
  • Certification: An official certificate of the registered event is issued. The certificate is a copy of the entry in the civil register.
  • Archiving: The registration records are stored, archived and maintained to permit access to and retrieval of copies by the individuals and families concerned. This involves strict attention to confidentiality and data security to ensure the integrity of the records and prevent fraud.
  • Information sharing: The civil registrar’s office provides reliable and timely information and data to other government agencies that need vital event information, such as the Ministry of Health, population registers, national statistics offices, pension funds systems, electoral services, personal identification services and, under certain circumstances, research institutions.
  • Vital statistics: The information from individual records is stripped of individual identifiers (that is, anonymised), aggregated, compiled, tabulated, analysed and disseminated widely to guide, policy making, program planning and monitoring and to inform all stakeholders, including to the public.

Read more

Key functions of CRVS systems

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Statistics Division (2014). Principles and recommendations for a vital statistics system, revision 3, United Nations, New York.

What is civil registration?

Civil registration is the system by which a government records vital events such as births, deaths and marriages.

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